Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wine, Women and Song!

September 2003 is when we Book Babes had our inaugural meeting.  That's a lot of years, and a lot of books!

Nicki has been hosting the Book Babes AGM at her Haliburton hide-away over a May weekend for the last few years.

It may be  one of the reasons our book club has lasted as long as it has...  that, and the way we choose our books.

We've made it our tradition to pick our books for the coming year, with everyone presenting three possibilities and then voting for their pick of the three.  Very democratic.  The books not chosen end up on the 'b' list. ... which is now looking so good I have a list of 30 books to read instead of 10.

Such a beautiful spot.  The woods were dotted with pink trilliums for our visit, the foam flowers were foaming, and the turtles were soaking up the rain.

Virginia, brave soul, went for a swim in the freezing lake.  There she is, waving, in the photo above.

Saturday morning I saw a flash of red blinking on a branch and couldn't figure out what it was. Don't humming birds hover?  This one sat for quite some time, and in the distance I would see the crimson flash as the tiny creature swiveled its head.  I didn't believe rubies were perching birds, but when Nicki grabbed the binoculars it was confirmed.  Definitely, yes!  That ruby throat.  How could I have doubted?

Saturday night Tim (Nicki's husband) dedicated a song to the Book Babes on his radio show - 'You Give Me Fever', and then to Judi from Minden with an 'i'.  What fun.

Site of the famous AGM

The food all weekend was delicious, of course!  And in great abundance.  A tasty discovery happened when pineapple, roasted asparagus & Saint Auger cheese accidentally combined over the invisible 'border-half' of the pizza.  Would never put those flavours together but they were fabulous on the oil-brushed, thin crust. 

Great wine.  Merlot Lohr and cab sav Liberty School make the list to try again.

Books this year that made the 'A list' are:
  • My Life In France / Julia Child & Alex Prudomme
  • Wolf Hall / Hilary Mantel
  • Started Early-Took My Dog / Kate Atkinson
  • The Art of Choosing  / Sheena Iyengar  
  • Bride of New France  / Suzanne Desrochers  
  • Luncheon of the Boating Party / Susan Vreeland 
  • My Stroke of Insight  / Jill Bolte Taylor
  • At Home- A Short History of Private Life  / Bill Bryson
  • Running North- A Yukon Adventure / Ann Mariah Cook 
  • Complications:A Surgeon's notes on an Imperfect Science / Atul Gawande

Monday, May 23, 2011

Victoria Day weekend

Lewisia Cotyledon

Daphne has a beautiful perfume right now - wish I could bottle it!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Shake down

Not much of a breeze for the shake down sail of 2011.
Heard some loons calling, did some cloud watching.
Dozed off in the sun....

The three-day weekend: a dream deferred

Happy Long Victoria Day weekend!  More time to just sit in the backyard and watch the birds.   More time for sailing, eating a leisurely meal.
Is there anything nicer than a weekend in spring?

Actually, there is – a three-day weekend in spring.

Seventy-two precious hours of freedom. Finish that book on the bedside table. Stroll the park, scour the barbecue, plant the garden. Or, if you're really ambitious, tackle the clutter in the basement.

Canadians enjoy five or six of these brief furloughs a year. In fact, they savour them – tonics for the spirit – like bottles of vintage wine.

The regular weekend is like a speed bump. It slows you down, but doesn't last long enough to change your basic habits. Three days, on the other hand, is a legitimate rest. It allows you to reset the psychic thermostat.

So here's the real question du jour: Why aren't there more of them? What's so sacred about the five-day workweek, a regimen set in place in North America seven decades ago that has been virtually immoveable since (unlike in many European countries)? In an age of high-tech efficiency and higher productivity, why isn't the working world organized to provide us with more leisure time?

The benefits – social, economic, ecological – would be legion.

Certainly, we were promised it. For more than a century, a loud chorus of visionaries has lauded the fruits of science and technology, and the personal liberties they would confer.

It hasn't worked out that way. Indeed, as they embark on their annual Victoria Day weekend – National Patriots Day in Quebec – Canadians (tethered to BlackBerries, laptops and iPads) are more likely to be struck by a grimmer calculus. Our so-called work-life balance has lost its equilibrium. Increasingly, we are logging longer hours. Increasingly, we have less time for recreational pursuits.

The statistics confirm what, in our weary bones, we already know. According to one recent American study, the amount of leisure time per capita hasn't changed significantly in 105 years. To the extent that is has changed, it's for the worse. Although the time Canadians spent on leisure pursuits increased from 5.5 to 5.8 hours per day between 1986 and 1998, by 2005 it had reverted to the 1986 level, a decrease of 18 minutes per day.

In her 1993 book, The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure, Harvard professor Juliet Schor documents the steady annual rise of work hours after 1970. The uptick – about nine hours per year – applies to both men and woman, white- and blue-collar workers. The surprise factor derives from the productivity numbers, which doubled between 1948 and 1990. By then, Americans produced enough goods and services to have adopted a four-hour workday or a six-month work year. “Or,” writes Prof. Schor, “every U.S. worker could be taking every other year off from work – with pay.”
It never happened, of course. The productivity dividend was squandered. Leisure time became a casualty of prosperity.

Reclaiming the Utopians
None of this was expected. On the contrary, for more than a century, the West's reigning mythology of infinite progress promised a cornucopia of leisure.

In 1888, the third best-selling book in America – after Uncle Tom's Cabin and Ben-Hur – was Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward: 2000-1887. The central character in this utopian novel, Julian West, falls asleep in the 1880s and wakes up in the year 2000. The world he apprehends has been transformed into a kind of paradise. Working hours have been reduced dramatically. People retire at age 45, with full benefits. And, via technology, goods and services are delivered almost instantaneously.

In the 1920s, biologist Julian Huxley said a two-day workweek was inevitable, because “we can only consume so much.” If only he could see us now.

Endorsing Huxley, economist John Maynard Keynes observed in the 1930s that society would eventually face a pressing social issue: “The great problem of what to do with our leisure.”

Their fears were unfounded. Industrial society's ability to function with reduced work capacity was clearly demonstrated during the Second World War, when millions of men went off to the front. Had the same methodologies been preserved after 1945, argued philosopher Bertrand Russell, and “the workweek cut to four days, all would have been well. Instead, the old chaos was restored, those whose work was demanded were made to work long hours, and the rest were left to starve as unemployed.” For Dr. Russell, “the morality of work is the morality of slaves, and the modern world has no need of slavery.”

The post-war decades yielded a harvest of new labour-saving devices. By 1970, American writer Alvin (Future Shock) Toffler envisaged an irreversible exodus from the workplace, precipitating a boom in leisure-time activities. These roseate forecasts achieved consensus as the computer era dawned and gathered pace, spurred by the development of the integrated circuit in 1958.

“From the ashes of the work ethic will rise the phoenix of leisure,” trumpeted electronic engineers Alan Burkitt and Elaine Williams, in 1980. “People will have the opportunity of using more free time to pursue their leisure interests, and more money to spend on them.” And computer scientist Christopher Evans maintained that the microprocessor would “at long last make the humanistic dream of universal affluence and freedom from drudgery a reality.”

The cult of hard labour
So what went wrong? Ben Hunnicutt thinks he knows. “The problem is that work has taken the place of religion in our lives,” says the American sociologist, who teaches at the University of Iowa.

“All the mythologies associated with work are the same ones associated with God. Except work is a false God. The notion that we can grow our economies forever, reach full employment – it's easier to believe in the resurrection of the body. ”

The research of Berkeley sociologist Arlie Hochschild verifies Prof. Hunnicutt's theory. For her 1997 book, The Time Bind, When Work becomes Home and Home Becomes Work, Prof. Hochschild interviewed employees for an American corporation that had put enlightened, family-friendly policies for work-sharing, flex-time, parental leave and sabbaticals in place. Yet the usage rate proved shockingly low – not because management subtly discouraged their adoption, or because employees were unaware of the programs, or because they could not afford them. Higher-paid workers were even less likely to use flex-time than lower-paid workers.

“What I realized,” says Prof. Hochschild, “is that the village well has gone to work. If you asked these people where they felt good about themselves, where they felt supported, where they felt safe – it was always work. One man said, ‘I've worked for the company 30 years. I get pink slips at home.'”

And for all its mega-pixelated marvels, technology itself now degrades the quality of our leisure. As French philosopher Jacques Ellul noted, our leisure time, “instead of ... representing a break with society, is literally stuffed with technical mechanisms of compensation and integration. ... Leisure time is mechanized time and is exploited by techniques which, although different from those of man's ordinary work, are as invasive, exacting, and leave man no more free time than labour itself.”
It's time for a change – time to move, incrementally, toward a four-day workweek.

Utah implemented exactly that plan – four, 10-hour days, with no cuts to pay or benefit, for its non-essential public employees – in 2008. Half a dozen other U.S. jurisdictions are said to be studying it. The European community has gone much further. In Scandinavia, working parents have the right to insist on a four-day week, without salary cuts. In the Netherlands, that right applies to all employees.

The 72-hour gospel
So, how rich are the potential dividends of a four-day week? Let us count the ways.

Fuel consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions: Let's assume there'd be about 20-per-cent fewer cars on the road for morning and afternoon rush hours. That would constitute a major reduction in crude oil usage. The same percentage decline would apply to chemical compounds spewed by cars and trucks – carbon monoxide and dioxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, ozone, lead and chloro-fluorocarbons. Global warming might even be reduced.

Disposable income: The 20-per-cent savings on gas, car maintenance and insurance would accrue to personal pocketbooks. The family sedan would last longer. Money otherwise allocated to these budget categories could be spent consuming other goods and services – so that overall levels of demand and consumption would not be affected.

Corporate incentives: Far from seeing the four-day week as a threat to productivity, the business world should welcome it. There would be significantly less absenteeism. With less stress on employees, companies would also be able to cut budgets for workplace stress-reduction and physiotherapy programs. Their own costs for heat, lights, security and building or office maintenance would also decline.

The well-being app: And finally, the three-day weekend's Killer App – call it the Well-Being App.
There'd be more time. Time for the family, a demonstrable, arguably urgent, need. And more time for the self. You could start that cottage industry you've been planning for years. Finish the screenplay. Take your kids on long hikes.

With more time, you would be able to cook more and eat out less (additional savings). You would watch less television. The habit is actually a reflex of exhaustion – European studies show that four-day workers are less inclined to park in front of the tube.

Instead of dropping your toddler at the day-care centre, you'd have one more day a week with him or her. Instead of missing the ballet class or the hockey game because of a corporate meeting, you would be there for it, video-camera in hand.

As a practical matter, “we need not adopt a one-size-fits-all template,” says John De Graaf, who runs the Seattle-based movement Take Back Your Time. “We have to recognize that people have different needs.”

But in dozens of ways, large and small, the three-day weekend would begin to repair the breach that has formed at the heart of Western culture – a breach in the quality of our lives.
Perhaps we need to become like Bartleby the scrivener in Herman Melville's short story. His boss repeatedly gives him assignments, to which the inscrutable legal assistant repeatedly says, “I'd prefer not to.”

If Facebook and Twitter postings can inspire a revolution that topples a dictator in Egypt, a campaign for a four-day workweek should be a piece of cake.

You have the next three days – at least – to think about it.

Michael Posner is a feature writer for the Globe and Mail

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fort William Historical Park

At a conference in Thunder Bay at Fort William Historical Park.  Great site!  The recreation of the world's largest trading post, (circa 1800) is convincing.  When I visited the skies were blue and the grounds were empty, but it was still easy to imagine it full and bustling with commerce. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Full Flower Moon - May

Photo credit
What gardener wouldn't love the name  Full Flower Moon?

I agree with Vita Sackville-West, "Flowers really do intoxicate me."

Some other beautiful quotes about flowers:
  • Earth laughs in flowers ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Hamatreya"
  • I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.  ~Claude Monet
  • The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size.  ~Gertrude S. Wister
  • Bread feeds the body, indeed, but flowers feed also the soul.  ~The Koran
  • The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks.  ~Tennessee Williams
  • I will be the gladdest thing
    Under the sun!
    I will touch a hundred flowers
    And not pick one.
    ~Edna St. Vincent Millay, "Afternoon on a Hill"

And for your listening pleasure, a beautiful melody, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, from the album Beyond the Missouri Sky:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Nesting Instinct

I've spent more hours this spring watching the birds nesting than I've spent watching the 5 part HBO mini-series Mildred Pierce.

The birdwatching was definitely more satisfying.  Mildred Pierce ended so oddly and suddenly.  Maybe hoping for a second season?

I came home after work one day to see this partly-made nest fallen under the tree, and wondered if the wind blew it down.  This could belong to a robin, or a mourning dove, or a cardinal, because all of them were to-ing and fro-ing from the fir bird condo.  I left the nest where it fell, so I could continue to admire the handiwork whenever I walk by.

This year we have a pair of chicadees roosting in the birdhouse.  They come and go lightning quick,  darting in and out of the small hole with admirable precision.  I don't think there are more than a few millimeters to spare, so they must time their entry perfectly for wings-tightly-closed.

And in the cedar, we have cardinals taking over last year's robin nest.  I watched the female for well over an hour, flying in with leaves to plump up the nest.  The cedar branches waving up and down on a windless morning.  The male remained a safe distance behind, standing guard, watching her progress.  I decided to go out and sit, and let the cat out too, just so they'd know the area was inhabited.  But they seemed very focused and undeterred.  I just hope the chicks don't suffer the same fate last year's robins did - plundered by crows.

I look forward to the flash of red of the male cardinal, and yesterday saw 2 males together.  Too territorial to pair,  I realized.  On closer look, they were scarlet tanagers.  They'd flitted in and left after a minute or two.  I stayed staring out for a good 15 minutes but they didn't return... maybe just passing through.  I feel lucky to have caught their brief appearance.
photo credit

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Gardening in the rain

Spent all day yesterday gardening in the rain.  The time flew by. 

Eight hours of transplanting, planting, poking seeds into the wet soil, plucking weeds, potting.  Actually, it is great weather for those garden chores, it saves getting the hose.  Even the tender ephemerals don't seem to mind a move in those conditions.

Today I am feeling a little stiff, so I'm taking it easy, watching the birds and drinking in the verdant green.

Wow!  All this growth in two weeks....

Foam flower, hellebore and blood root
Blood root, violets, trillium... maple seeds everywhere.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Misty morning

Slept on the boat last night.

It's been so long!

I heard a strange knocking and was wondering who and what was going on, then I realized I was on the boat, so it must be the ducks tapping against the hull....  and that it was the weekend and I could roll over and go back to sleep!  Delicious.

Headed outside to a misty morning.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Best laid plans

Photo credit
The orange corner I planted  back in November 2009 was sadly, just a fantasy.  The orange crocus was incredibly tiny in 2010 and didn't even show up this year.  Not sure if the orangerie daffodills even ever made an appearance (they are likely blooming in some neighbour's garden).  And the orange breeze tulips, a gorgeous colour, are seemingly an irresistible snack to the tree rats.  First they nibbled.  Then they bit the heads right off.  I was genuinely upset, I didn't realize I was so emotionally invested! Anyway, I pulled the squirrel treats right out of the garden.

This weekend I have garden work on the agenda:  buy rocks & soil, transplant the smokebush, plant the witch hazel, move some tender ferns into the ravine, dig a spot for the cedar.  Maybe get to the pots and bulbs, weather (and stamina) permitting.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Hot Docs - Still Reeling!

Saw more than 12 films at this year's Hot Docs.

There were some outstanding documentaries and others we sat (or slept through) were very forgettable if not downright boring.

Too bad you can't always tell the duds in advance.  Even some of the great docs seemed to go a bit past their ideal length. Hmmm.... Looking for feature status or a salable slot on tv?  Although it didn't help matters that we often screened many of the films at 9:45 pm - which is about 15 minutes before my normal bedtime. I'm going to have to do a better job picking my schedule next year! 

This was the largest ever Hot Docs, with more than 151K audience attending 360 screenings of 199 films.  

All of these did have some brilliant bits and unforgettable characters.  I can definitely see why the directors picked their "stars".  They make or brake the story (yes, I meant to spell it that way :-)).

Quick highlights of some of the films I saw (I've starred my absolute favourites).

** Poster Girl
A young woman returns from the Iraq war with post tramatic stress disorder and faces an ordeal trying to rebuild her life.  She has to battle hard with the U.S. government to get access to basic benefits that will help get her life back on track so she can rejoin society.  Along the way she discovers the power of art to heal.  Robyn is the last female in the line on right.  She spoke at the screening and was direct and without pretense.  Very brave person.

** Project Nim 
A biography about a chimp that was taken from its natural mother and raised by humans.  Nim was taught sign language in an effort to discover what chimps thought, then shipped off to a medical testing lab, then onto a life of solitary confinement.  Fascinating story directed by the Oscar winning director of Man on a Wire.  This raises the nature vs. nurture debate to a whole new level.  Some of the people who worked with Nim were there to take questions from the audience.  One of the primatologists was responsible for rescuing Nim from his life of solitary confinement.

Ken and Elmo
** Being Elmo, A Puppeteers Journey
When he was 10, he fell in love with the muppets and started trying to build his own puppets.  By 18 he had met Kermit Love, master builder and Jim Henson collaborator.  He was soon holding his own with Captain Kangaroo.  But his dreams really did start coming true when he started working on Sesame Street.  Elmo came to life in his hands.  Such a curious talent... subtle movements and eye positions make such a difference, you realize these people really are artists.

**Carol Channing:  Larger than Life
I knew about Carol Channing, of course!  But this documentary made me respect her all the more.  Almost 90, she has a new beau in her life and they are head-over-heels.   She performed Hello Dolly well over 5,000 times - yet never got the opportunity to star in the film version.  Barbra out-campaigned her for the part.  The Director hung out with Carol on the theatre scene and realized she had to start recording some of her incredible stories.

Despicable Dick
Despicable Dick and Righteous Richard
This guy is at the 8th and 9th step of the famous 12 steps.  He is at the stage where he asks forgiveness for his truly despicable actions (throwing one of his wives naked into a hotel hallway, tossing another from a moving car, ignoring his children).  Despicable Dick is still a prick when sober. While he reminisces it is almost as if he is celebrating the bounder he was; he doesn't seem to be at all sorry.

Chance Encounters
By strange coincidence, a married couple of TTC drivers both encounter suicides while driving their subway trains.  The 'chance encounters' change their lives forever.  (About one person every week attempts suicide by jumping in front of a train).  10 minute student film shows definite promise.

My home town Toronto has a new growth industry.  People who try to make a living playing poker at underground games across the city.  These "grinders" partake in illegal activities while the cops turn a blind eye.  Not many females at the tables.  Every day there are 200+ games in clubs ranging from downtown to suburbs.  One of the featured spots was actually less than 10 blocks away from where I live.  The Director was a grinder himself and was happy to give it up because it had become as tedious a way to earn a living as working on the GM Assembly line.  Now, to make some quick cash, he'll head off to the casino to play tourists who usually don't have a clue what they're doing.

The Hollywood Complex
Kids hoping to be cast as the next star of a prime time series migrate to Hollywood for Pilot Season.  Their families put up stakes of several thousands of dollars on the gamble.  Most return home unsuccessful after a season or two.  Others are no longer children and moving into mid-adolescence, but still persist.  Heartbreaking, really.

Melissa:  Mom and Me
They stripped together in Japan.  Now 10+ years later, the Director tries to hook up again with her friend to see how her life is turning out.  Not so hot, actually.  Melissa is struggling with addictions and self-esteem issues.  Both the Director and Melissa were there at the screening, but I couldn't really think of anything to ask as I wasn't particularly curious.  The story was pretty well told in the film.

Over a ten-year period, two families feud and bare-knuckle fight.  These Travelers are Irish gypsies.  Remember Snatch?  Brad Pitt probably hung out with some of these guys as he was preparing for the role.  HBO is turning this into a series.

The Good Life
These characters were probably the least likable of the lot.  Once part of the ruling class in Denmark, they've now lost their wealth and are totally helpless.  The 50+ daughter sits around most of the time blaming her 70+ mother for all her misfortune.  Very similar to Grey Gardens with respect to lost fortunes.  At least 30 minutes too long.  The Director, who was there for the screening, said the daughter thought herself quite glamourous when she saw the film  Go figure.

Valley of the Moon
Hippies living on a beach in Sardinia, Italy.  When do they cross the lines and become homeless bums?  The Director was there to take questions.  Sometimes he needed the translator to restate the questions and answers; other times he spoke in English.  One of the hippies is living in Tuscany now, the other in Rome.  Maybe I'll bump into them in September when I travel to Italy?  Although I might not recognize them with their clothes on....
At Night They Dance
A family of women try to make it on their own in Egypt, by having two of the daughters bellydance at wedding celebrations (the portion of the ceremony attended almost exclusively by males).  I saw this film in the afternoon and despite its tantalizing subject matter still fell asleep.  This will be screened at Cannes, where I wonder whether they will share my opinion it is too long?  Amazing subject matter.  The filmmakers are married to each other, live in Quebec when they are not on the road, and answered questions while they took turns holding their baby.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Cosmic Dancer sequence

Photo credit
I wasn't quite sure about the the poses Natasha Rizopoulos took us through at the yoga conference, so I took her up on her offer and emailed her for the sequence.

She kindly replied, and  here it is for my future reference:



SNA 3x

CRESCENT work for hip flexors



DHANURASANA (hands clasped first on outer ankles, then inner ankles) to PARVA DHANURASANA






Friday, May 6, 2011

First Impressions

Photo credit
Opening my eyes first thing in the morning, looking out the skylight, seeing the branches straining to embrace the sky.  A flash of red, then perching. What is it?  It looks so familiar....

A rose-breasted grosbeak!  As soon as I consulted the backyard bird reference I remembered.  It has been years since I've seen this fine feathered friend; I forgot it's name.  Gorgeous, don't you agree?  A tuxedo front, so fancy.

The female wasn't far behind.  So delicate looking, but not as brash and more understated.

Gosh, I hope the world doesn't end on May 21st.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hardy Plant Sale Finds

Gathering up some new finds for a spring planting.  The Hardy plant sale was the perfect opportunity to find some evergreens and early bloomers. 

Magic Fire 
Witch Hazel
I went looking for my name-sake, Diane, but found this instead.  I asked what the difference was, and in this variety the leaves drop off (less maintenance!).  

Vase-shaped, it will grow 4M in height with a 30 inch spread after 20 years, but can be pruned.  (Prune just after it flowers, and cut back previous year's growth to 2 leaf buds, which are more narrow than the flower buds.... try not to remove flower buds.)  This flowers in February/March and turns gold in autumn.

All-season interest!

Nana Aurea Cedar

Dwarf Mugo Pine
One of the smallest varieties, the type I got will only be 10" after ten years.

Nana Aurea Cedar
Another dwarf conifer, very slow growing,  3' by 2' after ten years.  Bright yellow foliage.

Lewisia Cotyledon
Difficult to believe this exotic looking plant is actually a hardy perennial. Deadheading will prolong blooms in late spring, early summer.  Succulent leaves.  

This may or may not work out in the long-term as the plant is susceptible to crown rot and needs very well-drained soil.  I'll try the first season in a pot and then overwinter in the scree garden.  Fingers crossed.

Looked for some with upright flowers and found the Ivory Prince and the Blue Lady.  

I can't resist romantic pairings!  


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Perrennial Favourites

Blood root
Ah, yes!  They are finally making an appearance in the garden!

Hellebore, bloodroot, bergenia, tulips, daffodil, pulminaria, wasabi, chionodoxa (blue star shaped).  The scila are just now starting to bow over, and there are no signs left of the crocus.

Yesterday's OHA District 5 meeting inspired me, with topics of xeroscaping and gardening for all seasons.

Paul Zammit was brimming with enthusiasm and spoke of a few cultivars that would look great in the garden:  Marybells, for their graceful yellow cascade; Pink Frost or Ivory Prince hellebores for their upward-facing habits; Lightning Strike Toad Lily because of its great spring foliage and autumn flowers; and Diane Witch hazel for its very early orange blossoms.

He went on a bit of a rant about tulips in general.  Don't arrange them like soldiers standing in a row, or toss them up in the air to plant where they land (it looks like the squirrels have been at them!).  Plant them in clumps for colour and bloom season.  He joked about people with the time on their hands to braid withering tulip leaves. "Don't think of them as dying plants", he said, "think of them as maturing foliage".

Variegated Firespray tulip
Which leads to another point.  Choose tulips not just for their flower, but for their foliage, because the leaves are what make the first and last appearance.  I was pleased when he showed examples of a couple different varieties I already have blooming in my own garden.

The afternoon presentation on xeroscaping was a good review of basics.  Don't fight mother nature, work with her:  place the right plant in the right place, compost, and mulch.  If you can't resist water-loving plants, try hydro-zoning so similar plants are nestled together.  Choose drought tolerant plants, which you can recognize by silver leaves that reflect the sun.  They're often low-growing, fuzzy, and fragrant.

Then today it was off to the hardy plant sale at the TBG with Nicki.  So crazy-busy it was hard to get close to some of the tables.  I looked at a ruffled peony and was surprised by a $75 pricetag, but was told it was an excellent price.  I was very tempted -  but "ruffled peony" sounds a bit too high maintenance for me...